Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Description

The University of Chicago follows WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines for digital assets. Relevant guidelines regarding audio, video, and other time-based media content are described below. Please follow links to the W3C website for additional guidance, techniques, and exceptions.

Accuracy: Many platforms offer captions generated by automatic speech recognition (ASR). Although artificial intelligence is constantly improving, ASR captions usually need human correction to reach acceptable accuracy levels. Captions and transcripts can be corrected by faculty, staff, student workers, or third-party service providers. An outside vendor may be the best choice if you need a quick turnaround. Correcting captions and transcripts can be a time-consuming process.


Captions are a text version of the speech and non-speech audio information needed to understand audio and video content. They are displayed within the media player and are synchronized with the audio.

Provide captions for all audio content in live or prerecorded synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

Who benefits from captioning

Users who rely on captions for equal access to media content:

  • individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • people with learning disabilities
  • people who process written information better than audio or visual information

Other people and circumstances can also benefit from captions:

  • viewers who are English as additional language speakers
  • people who are emergent readers
  • anyone in a noisy environment
  • the content includes dialogue that is spoken quickly
  • the speaker has an accent the user can’t easily understand
  • the audio contains background noise
  • the content contains proper names or technical references

Caption types

Closed captions can be turned on or off by the user.

Open captions are always on, and are formatted and placed by the video editor. If open captions are used, they should not obscure or obstruct relevant information in the video.

Closed captions may be preferable to open captions for usability reasons:

  • Closed captions can be turned on or off
    • Turning captions off can help people with certain disabilities including cognitive impairments.
  • Closed captions provide the user more control over caption display
    • Depending on the media player, the user can control font size, playback speed, quality, translation, and more.
  • Open captions are not accessible to screen readers


A transcript is the text version of media content.

A transcript for prerecorded audio-only or a transcript (or audio track) for prerecorded video-only content is required. It’s best practice to provide a transcript with prerecorded synchronized multimedia to reach the largest possible audience.

Make it easy for users to find the transcript. For example, put the transcript itself or a link to the transcript right under the video on your webpage.

Who benefits from transcripts

Transcripts can be useful to anyone, including:

  • deaf-blind users who may consume transcripts via a refreshable braille keyboard
  • screen-reader users who can more easily control the speed of the spoken word via their screen reader
  • users who want to search the transcript to quickly find information
  • users who have difficulty processing auditory information
  • people using translation services into another language
  • users who are unable to view the video
  • users whose first preference is text

Audio description

Audio Description (AD) is narration added to the soundtrack to describe important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone.

Provide audio description for prerecorded, synchronized multimedia. Note: This guideline can be met by describing all visual content critical to comprehension within the audio track itself.

Learn more about the Audio Description Project, an initiative of the American Council of the Blind.

Who benefits from audio description

Audio descriptions are most useful for:

  • individuals who are blind, have low vision, or are visually impaired
  • users who are unable to view or choose not to view the video

What events and media content need this?

Course content

Place a high priority on offering human-generated or corrected captions for content that is part of your ongoing curriculum, particularly if it will continue to exist beyond the current term or if it will be posted to a website.

Accommodations for a student registered with Student Disability Services are required. Please coordinate with Student Disability Services,

New public-facing content

Captions and transcripts of new media content on websites or social media should be human-generated or corrected before they are posted.

Legacy public-facing content

For existing content on a website or social media platform:

  • User requests for captions or transcripts must be fulfilled in a timely manner.
  • Update captions and transcripts of your most visited items before those least visited.
  • Assess whether media should be removed if no longer necessary or relevant.

Live Events

For webinars, large events, or seminars—particularly if University-wide, public-facing, or with an audience member with a requested accommodation:

  • Place a notice on the event registration/invitation similar to:
    • This event will be closed captioned. To request other accommodations, please contact no less than 3 business days before the event.
  • Provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART): CART is the instant translation of the spoken word into text by a trained captioner using a stenotype machine, computer, and real-time software. CART services can be provided on-site or remotely via a web conferencing tool.
  • Upon request, provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation.
  • Note: The costs associated with accessibility are considered part of the overall expense of an event. Event sponsors are responsible for the costs of making their events accessible. Consult the University’s Accessible Event Resource Guide for more information.
  • For University-wide or large-scale events, you may want to enlist the services of UChicago Creative or University Events and Ceremonies.

Virtual Events


Following is a partial list of vendors previously used by the University for captioning and other services. Please reach out to vendors directly for more information. You may want to consult with Student Disability Services if you have questions about contracting service providers.

Real-time Services

Vendor Video captioning (CART) ASL interpreting, on site ASL interpreting, video remote
ACS Yes Yes Yes
American Language Services Yes Yes Yes
Chicago Hearing Society Yes Yes Yes
3Play Media Yes No No
CaptionSync Yes No No
Dillon Reporting Service Yes No No

Post-production Services

Vendor Translation Video captioning Audio transcription Audio description
3Play Media Yes Yes Yes Yes
CaptionSync Yes Yes Yes Yes
ACS Yes Yes Yes No
American Language Services Yes No Yes No

Additional Resources